When you’ve just been involved in an auto accident, your adrenaline is pumping and you may not make the best decisions. If you left the scene of an accident without speaking to the other party, that is very likely what happened to you. But now you’re facing criminal charges after a hit & run accident, a potentially serious crime.Criminal Charge in Massachusetts? Call Attorney Russell Matson at (781) 817-6332.
Most hit and run incidents in Massachusetts are fairly minor leaving the scene of property damage cases: typically a parked car, a fence, a signpost, utility pole or street lamp. But sometimes they cases can be much more serious, such as if a person is injured as a result of the accident.
If not dealt with promptly and effectively, a leaving the scene of an accident charge can potentially result in serious criminal penalties.
But very often, I can get these cases thrown out, even when you are clearly guilty.
June – 2017
Brookline – Dismissed
Clinton – Dismissed
Quincy – Dismissed
Concord – Dismissed
Worcester – Dismissed
Westfield – Dismissed
Concord – Dismissed
Plymouth – Dismissed
East Brookfield – Dismissed
Sprigfield – Dismissed
Dudley – Dismissed
Charlestown – Dismissed
Woburn – Dismissed
Dudley – Dismissed
East Boston – Dismissed
East Brookfield – Dismissed Prior to
Malden – No Citation/Complaint Sought
Salem – Dismissed
Charlestown – Dismissed
Somerville – Dismissed
Worcester – Dismissed
Cambridge – No Citation/Complaint Sought
Quincy – Dismissed
Westborough – Dismissed
Ipswich – Dismissed
Woburn – Dismissed after 3 months
Yes, you heard right. It’s absolutely true.
At a clerk’s hearing, many clerk magistrates are willing to not go forward with a criminal charge, even if the facts support it. Assuming you have a clean record and it’s not a serious case with an injured victim, I can very often convince them not to issue the charge and drop the case.
If all we are talking about is a fairly minor accident and perhaps a lapse in judgment on your part, I can argue that no good purpose is served to put someone through the criminal justice system. And most magistrates are very fair and decent on this, if we make the right appeal. (See more on that below)
So give me a call, and I’ll tell you how I can help you. We have many, many recent successes in representing people just like you, charged with Leaving the Scene. And we can help you work through what you need to do right now to avoid more problems, and deal with your insurance company after the incident.
I Got a Citation for Leaving the Scene – What do I do?
If you received a citation in the mail, you have 4 days to send in the notice to request a clerk magistrate’s hearing. You should absolutely do this right away. You will get a notification in the mail in a week or so and I can talk to you about representation at a clerk’s hearing.
It often makes sense for you to hire a lawyer before you even know the date of your hearing because we can change the court date if needed, and make sure everything is lined up well in advance to give you the best possible chance to win at the hearing.
I haven’t been cited, but the police are calling me and threatening me.
The cops are investigating and trying to gather evidence against you. Someone probably witnessed the incident and took down your license plate and called the police.
Sometimes the cops will do this by calling you, knocking on your door, or harassing you. This can be extremely intimidating and frightening. Or they may send you a formal letter in the mail asking to you show up at the police station at a specific date and time to answer questions. “Failure to appear at the time and date indicated above may result in notification being forwarded to the Office of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and/or a Court Complaint to be filed.”
My advice is don’t talk to them without a lawyer. Almost all of the time, you are going to cause yourself more trouble trying to explain it away. You are far more likely to talk yourself into trouble than out of trouble.
If you hire me, I can run interference and shut them down, or go with you to talk to the police to make sure nothing bad happens. In quite a few cases, I’ve even been able to prevent the police from even issuing the citation.
If you end up getting a citation after not talking to them, it is a near certainty that it was going to happen anyway. And you haven’t given them anything to use against you, so we still have a great chance to fix this without a criminal charge being filed.
Beating a Leaving the Scene of the Accident Charge at a Clerk’s Hearing
I’ve got a lot of different strategies to help clients avoid a conviction and a criminal charge in a leaving the scene cases.
I wrote an entire book on the Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing process. That is the most common way to win, but not the only way.
We do more cases like this than anyone in Massachusetts, and most of the time, if they are straightforward, with no one injured, and any property damage gets paid for, I can make them go away. Here’s how I do it:
1) Preparation and Proof of Damages Paid by the Insurance Company
When I go to into a hearing, I am always over prepared with documentation to give the clerk every reason to drop the case.
I have all the information the magistrate needs to feel the situation is resolved, and pursuing a criminal charge in the courts benefits no one. The most important piece is the insurance company claim documentation that shows the other party who sustained damage is completely covered, so there is no harm.
Very often that is enough to end the case right there. But if it isn’t and the Clerk Magistrate still seems inclined to issue a criminal complaint, I move on to the next step.
2) It was Just a Misunderstanding
I’ve had a lot of clients tell me they truly didn’t mean to leave the accident without stopping. This can happen if the other party doesn’t immediately stop either. I’ve had clients tell me that they tried to report the incident, but the other car just took off.
I’ve also had a few cases where my client legitimately didn’t think there was an accident. He thought he stopped short just in time, and was jarred by slamming on the brakes, so he didn’t really feel the impact. Or if you just barely brush or scrape a fence or post, sometimes it doesn’t feel like there was really any damage, and it isn’t noticed until later.
It can definitely happen.
3) My Client Deserves a Break
Sometimes the story of the accident seems a little suspicious to the clerk, and he’s not buying it, or thinks the incident was serious enough that it is worthy of a criminal charge to send a message.
When this happens, I will try to find another way to appeal to the clerk to use the wide discretion to dismisses the case. Even when there is certainly legitimate evidence and probable cause that he could go forward with the charge, here’s why you shouldn’t:
- Lesson learned: My client is here taking responsibility for this incident and is serious about his or her regret.
- No record: My client has a clean driving record before this accident, and there is no reason to think this is a pattern or will ever happen again.
- Military: My client has a military background and has served his or her country, and is worthy of a second chance here.
- Promising Career: My client is young, talented, and full of promise. A criminal charge could derail his or her future, and doing so would not benefit anyone.
Any combination of these arguments can often change the outcome in your favor.
This is Why You Need a Lawyer
These are just a few examples of the many arguments and strategies we can use to win. But it takes some skill and experience to determine what is going to work in the courtroom. And you can’t successfully make a lot of these work yourself.
It is allowable to go into a hearing without an attorney, and some people do so. But you are taking a risk with your best opportunity to quickly avoid any criminal charge.
If you have an attorney like myself representing you, you simply have a much better chance to win.
Massachusetts Leaving the Scene of an Accident- Penalties
The penalty you face for leaving the scene of an accident depends on the nature of the accident.
Leaving the Scene of Property Damage: If the accident only resulted in damage of property you will face fines ranging from $20 to $200 and jail time of 2 weeks to a maximum 2 years.
Although the misdemeanor penalties allow for a jail sentence, there is virtually no chance that will happen if no one was seriously hurt. In fact, almost all of my recent leaving the scene cases were disposed of by pre-trial probation or dismissals.
Leaving the Scene of Personal Injury: If the accident resulted in the injury of another person, your fines are increased to $500 to $1,000 with the potential of spending 6 months to 2 years in jail. See my page on Leaving The Scene of an Accident with Personal Injury for more details.
Death: Although it is rare, if the accident resulted in someone’s death, you can face felony charges. This means you may serve up to 10 years in prison and pay $5,000 in fines. You can also be charged with motor vehicle homicide.
These kinds of penalties can cause real problems in your life if you don’t deal with them properly. They are nothing to take lightly and certainly nothing to take on by yourself. Whether the police already located you and you’ve been charged or if you were involved in an accident and think there may be a warrant out for your arrest—I can help.
Ref: MGL §90.24
Leaving the Scene – Other Defenses and Legal Strategies
I have had good success at winning these cases in a variety of different ways. The goal is always to avoid a criminal charge and prevent any damaging impact your life and your livelihood.
We can quite often beat these charges and avoid having a criminal complaint issued at clerk magistrate’s hearings. This essentially means no charges were ever filed. This is the best possible result.
For cases that were arraigned and charged, there are also many ways to win.
I have beaten cases that have already been charged, by filing a motion to dismiss. If a case is dismissed prior to arraignment, it disappears and never shows up on your record.
If I have been able to work out pleas that resulted in a disposition of pretrial probation. Pretrial probation means is a disposition where the defendant does not make any admission in court, the defendant agrees to be placed on probably for a certain time, after that probationary period, the case is dismissed.
What is My Duty to Stop Under Massachusetts Law?
If you’re involved in an accident, you are required by law to stop immediately and exchange information with the other driver. If that person is injured you are to wait for emergency assistance on the scene and give your account to the police. Failing to do this often results in a criminal citation.
If this is what happened to you, it can often be the result of panic, or not knowing what to do. Whatever may have happened, we need to fix the problem right away.
Or you may not have been aware of your legal duty to stop. I have even seen clients who didn’t even know they’d been in an accident.
Whatever the case, you need a defense attorney ready to defend your actions and work towards the best results possible in court.
Contact me today for a free consultation on your case and some valuable legal advice. We have handled countless cases just like yours, and we can absolutely help you fix this and put it behind you.
Call Now for a Free Criminal Consultation.